Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pale and I know it

This isn't an easy thing for me to revisit, but as I was reminiscing about it recently, I thought I'd make a blog post of it, as there aren't many others on the subject. 

I was bullied badly at secondary school and it was largely due to the colour of my skin, which might sound surprising when I tell you that I was a white girl in an all-white school. Not an inner-city school with a bad rep, but a 400 pupil semi-rural comprehensive. And I was brutally tormented almost daily for five years because of my pale complexion. 

Until I went there, I had zero idea that I looked any different to anyone else but it was soon hammered into me that I most certainly was. I was constantly called "ghost" and asked, "Why are you so pale?" Even the teachers would make cutting remarks about my snow white skin, so I never felt I would be taken seriously if I confided in them about the bullying. The kids who loved to humiliate me in front of everyone else were mostly boys - really rough ones who came from the nearest city. They were the sort that already looked like they were in their twenties by the age of 12 and were going out to clubs, sleeping with older girls and committing real criminal acts in and outside of the school gates. 

Whereas I was one of those girls who looked like an eight-year-old until I was at least sixteen, all little and skinny, like a newborn lamb put in a pen with a pack of wild dogs. It was so easy for these boys, once I was isolated from my two besties during form time, to literally corner me and shout abuse in my face abut how pale I was. I really never knew my lack of a tan was such a big deal until I was being utterly tormented for it. 

These boys were so powerful in my year group that none of the other kids did anything to help me, they just sat and watched, probably having a good laugh. There were two girls who were considered "hot" who were accepted by this gang of boys and even though they could see how much I was suffering they never once tried to offer me any kind of sisterly support. People always say that with boys it's physical bullying, but this was sneaky, psychological torment that was always done far behind the teacher's back.

One day, a random kid told me that one of those girls had been saying to people in mock serious tone, "Did you know that [Bossy Thing] is dead, and that's actually a ghost that comes to school?" Writing it down now, it sounds absolutely silly, but I was so hurt at the time and I didn't understand why I had to be made to feel alienated, like a freak of nature. 

In fact, looking at my school year photo now, I barely look any lighter than a lot of the others. But it was me that always attracted the bullies. I guess that, as is the story of my life, my face simply didn't fit and people thought it would be ok to treat me like a piece of dirt on the floor and tear apart every little flaw about me.

Searching online for people bullied for being pale, some float the idea that it is a form of racism, but I don't agree because that only describes descrimination against those of a different race. This was merely gang mentality and ignorance and stupidity directed at someone of the same race. This inter-racial discrimination seems to exist in all races - think of the Indian caste system where the lighter you are the higher up the social chain you go, and blacks who jealously bully their lighter skinned peers. The part of England I'm from happens to be home to some very "swarthy" people (my father included) and it just so happened I turned out a lot lighter than most of them. Why I should have to justify that to anyone seems extremely superficial, not to mention pointless.

That is another reason, along with the details already outlined in my infamous Liz Jones-style diatribe Pity post, why I have always declined to join Facebook. There's no way I would want the bastards who bullied me so relentlessly to now call themselves my "friend" and be able to look through photos of me.

Now I'm a grown-up, people are still frequently amazed at the whiteness of my skin so I guess I really must be freakishly pale. I still don't get what answer I'm supposed to give when they ask me why. "Because I don't have any pigment"? 

I suppose the bullying did awaken my mind to worry about being pale and sometimes it bothers me and I'll apply a little fake tan just to take the edge off that blue-white. But I don't like to think I let the bullies win.

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